On the list of necessities for NBA success, a star cornerstone falls near the top—probably somewhere between having uniforms and making sure the lights are on in the arena.
In other words, they’re important.
We know who the current ones are: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Stephen Curry and the like. Though they haven’t quite cracked the MVP barrier, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo belong in that class as well.
Pegging the next wave is trickier.
A max contract does not a franchise player make. Anyone who thinks otherwise should first consider Andrew Wiggins. For our purposes, we need guys who project to lead their teams on a whole bunch of deep playoff runs, push for MVP awards and generally develop into organizational pillars.
Here, we’ll isolate five young talents (we’ll just throw out “25 or younger” as the bright-line rule, even if we don’t need to get that specific) who fit the bill. None of them are all the way there just yet; you won’t find any MVPs, Finals participants or even All-NBA First-Teamers. But every one of these guys could reach that level as soon as 2018-19 if things break right.